Apache gunhawk, p.7
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       Apache Gunhawk, p.7

           Monogram Press
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Brace Coburn pulled his mount to a halt and turned him sideways in the middle of the trail. He pulled his gold-plated watch from his vest pocket and checked the time. His eyes lingered on the picture of the young couple framed in the watch cover. He slightly smiled at the images. Then, he closed the lid and put the watch back into his vest pocket, patting it to make sure it was secure in its usual resting place.

  He had delivered Buzz Shannan to the local Sheriff in Dry Springs earlier that morning where he had acquired medical attention for the wounded outlaw and left him in jail. He had wired Yuma and a deputy would out in a few days to pick up the prisoner. Coburn was anxious to get back on the trail of the Stoker brothers. He had left the big bay at the livery in Dry Springs and had acquired a younger and stronger black gelding.

  He had left the town of Dry Springs about three miles behind him when he saw the caravan coming toward him on the trail. He shaded his eyes against the brilliant sun with his hand and strained to make them out. He could see right off that the rider in front sat tall in the saddle. The two horses behind him looked almost riderless. In fact, as they came closer along the trail, he could see that he was right. Riderless, wasn’t exactly correct. Each horse actually did carry a man draped over each saddle, head and arms dangling on one side of the horse and feet hanging on the other side. It looked as if each man had been wrapped in their slickers and tied down securely. It was a sight that Brace Coburn was all too familiar with.

  The marshal shifted his bulk in the saddle and leaned both hands on the saddle horn and waited as the grisly procession sidled up to him. He gazed at the tall man leading and shook his head disapprovingly. “Just can’t bring’em in alive, can you Hawk?”

  “They behave better this way,” was the laconic answer.

  “Do I need to guess, who you’ve got this time?” Coburn said with a disgruntled sigh and nudged his horse around the rider and his trailing horses. He flipped a corner of one of the slickers up. One glance told him, he was right. “Zeke Stoker,” he mused. “I’d guess the other one is his brother,” he said, angling his mount back around and pulling close to the man he had called Hawk.

  “I’d say you’re right good at guessing there, Marshal,” Hawk was flippant.

  “Funny thing,” Coburn said. “I had these two cornered with their partner, Buzz Shannan, the other day. Would’ve had them all if some jehu hadn’t mixed in. Shannan was wounded and I had to let those two get away while I tended to him. You wouldn’t happen to know anything about that now, would you?”

  “Me? Now how would I know anything about that?” Hawk answered. “Seems to me somebody did you a favor and helped you get old Buzz. And now look how your luck’s turning out. I’ve done the rest of your work for you and got the other two.”

  “And now you can collect the bounty on them. I’d say luck was in your corner, that they got away from me.”

  “I’d say you just might have a point there,” Hawk grinned.

  Coburn wheeled his mount along-side Hawk. “Well I guess I might as well ride back to town with you,” he said and gigged the black forward. Hawk brought his own mount into step and the two rode side by side. “I suppose I’ll have to authorize the reward money for you.”

  “That would be thoughtful,” Hawk mused.

  “You know, Hawk. My life was a lot simpler while you were still with the army.”

  “Now Marshal, haven’t I brought in a lot of bad guys for you?”

  “All dead.”

  “Damn straight,” the Apache responded with pride.

  “You know, you’re still a savage. I don’t know why your own people didn’t want to keep you. Seems to me you’d have been a big asset to Geronimo.”

  “Maybe I prefer bounty money to scalps,” Hawk said. “Besides, I’m doing the same job as you. You don’t like me because I get paid more than you do.”

  “I uphold the law, Hawk. You don’t. You’re out for blood money.”

  “That makes you noble,” Hawk sneered. “The way I see it, we both get the job done. The difference is you get forty dollars a month blood money and I get paid per head.”

  “You also set yourself up as judge, jury and executioner. You have no regard for the law. Just the money.”

  “You have to admit, my way is more efficient,” Hawk said.

  “But it’s wrong. Every man is entitled to a fair trial.”

  “Buzz Shannan going to get a fair trial?”

  “You bet he is.”

  “What happens after that?”

  “What do you mean?” Coburn was getting irritated now.

  “After the trial. What happens then? You going to let him go?”

  “Not on your life. That piece of scum is going to get what he deserves.”

  “You mean, they’ll hang him?”

  “Of course, they’ll hang him.”

  Hawk nodded comprehendingly. “So why not shoot him in the first place and save everyone all the trouble?”

  “Oh, Hawk,” the marshal growled with disgust. “Just go back to the damn army, will you?” He kicked the black in the ribs and sent him forward at a trot.

  Hawk grinned and hurried after him.

  In a small town like Dry Springs, anything out of the ordinary, was entertainment. The arrival of Marshal Coburn and his prisoner earlier in the day had already been more excitement than the townspeople had seen for many months. And now, more excitement was being added to the day. Shop keepers came out into the streets, the saloons emptied out and passer-byes stopped what they were doing to stare at the two riders and the trailing horses carrying dead bodies, as they rode down the center of the main street.

  Coburn was immediately recognizable to them as he had been there earlier with another prisoner. The other man had not been in Dry Springs before, but several of the onlookers were sure he was a man they had heard of, especially since he was trailing two dead bodies. He was, they guessed, the former Apache cavalry scout, now turned bounty hunter, known as Hawk and known for not bringing in prisoners alive.

  A hubbub of voices filled the air as people began to group into a herd and followed the strange procession down the street, where the riders were dismounting and tying up their horses in front of the undertaker’s establishment.

  In all of the excitement, a tall, dark rider in dusty trail clothes and three day’s stubble of black beard, entering town from the east went unnoticed. The stranger took notice of the activity down the street and not wanting to ride into the mob, angled his mustang off to the right and reined up in front of the Golden Coin Saloon. He swung his lanky leg over the saddle and stepped down casually. His eyes lingered along the street as he tied his horse to the hitch rail, then leaned against a post and took out the makings to roll a smoke. He was just licking the paper when he saw another rider coming into town from the west. Little Bill Noonan put the cigarette between his lips, took out a match, struck it against the denim seat of his trouser and cupping the flame, he touched it to the end of his quirly. He watched his brother, Tom Noonan, continue riding down the street and rein up in front of the bank. Tom was dressed in a new gray linen broadcloth suit, with a ruffled white shirt, string tie, and matching grey hat. Little Bill grinned to himself at the sight of his brother dressed like a dandy. It was a sight he rarely saw.

  He watched his brother dismount, tie up, step onto the board sidewalk, and enter the bank.

  Little Bill puffed on his smoke for a while; then tossed it to the ground and stepped on it with the pointy toe of his boot, grinding it out. He sauntered lazily on down the street toward the bank.

  Townspeople were still milling about, crowding close to the horses in front of the funeral parlor. Hawk had already gone inside, but Coburn, already in a bad mood, stepped out around the rear of the horses and stood in front of the crowd. “Show’s over, folks,” he bellowed. “Go back about your business. You’re just crowding us here and we’ve got work to do.”

  A murmur of protest went up from the crowd and the big marshal’s voice boomed once m
ore. “I’m not going to tell you again. Clear the street and get along.” He waited a beat when the crowd didn’t move. “I said, get!” He shouted and drew his pistol with a cross draw from the holster on his left side.

  The crowd moved away quickly. Coburn holstered his weapon, grimaced, turned, and went inside to join Hawk.

  “Can I help you, sir?” Simon Crumm asked from behind the steel barred cage of the teller’s window, as Tom Noonan entered the bank and approached him.

  “Why, yes,” Tom said in his most business-like tone and reaching beneath his left lapel, producing a shiny black leather wallet. “I’m a cattle buyer and I’m carrying way too much money on me at the present. I thought perhaps, it would be much safer if you could keep it in your safe overnight, while I’m in town.”

  “I think we can accommodate you there, Mister…?” He let it dangle as a question.

  “Grogan,” Tom said glibly. “Thomas Grogan.”

  “Let me just check with Mr. Hadley, our bank president. I won’t be but a moment, Mr. Grogan.” He pushed his green eyeshade up a little and adjusted his wire rimmed glasses as he shuffled off to an office to the right and behind the other teller’s cage. The frosted glass window on the door bore the name, ‘Lee Hadley, Pres.’

  Tom leaned back on his heels casually, glancing around the bank nonchalantly, taking in the layout of the bank. With years of practice, he managed to keep an impassive look of disinterest on his face as he carefully and methodically memorized everything. Even the sight of the big Hamilton and Pierce safe in the back room did not change his expression, although this would make this job much tougher than he had anticipated. The big safe was state of the art for 1882, complete with time locks, thick steel framing and practically impregnable.

  A few moments later, the teller and another man emerged from the bank president’s office. This man was young, barely approaching middle age. He had dark wavy hair and his slight frame filled his tailored gray suit with an air of dignity and importance.

  “Mr. Grogan, this is our bank president, Mr. Hadley,” Simon said as he took his place behind his cage. Lee Hadley stepped around the cage and came through a swinging rail gate, his hand extended and an oily smile on his face.

  “Happy to meet you, Mr. Grogan,” he said. “Come into my office. I’m sure I can be of assistance to you.”

  ‘I’m sure you can,’ Tom thought, to himself as he followed Hadley through the rail and allowed the banker the usher him into his office. ‘I’m sure you can.’

  “Who is that man that just went into Lee’s office?” Mrs. Hadley had just come from the back room to take her place at the other teller’s cage.

  Simon Crumm turned from his cage, “That’s a Mr. Grogan,” he said. “I guess he’s new in town.”

  She stepped into her cage, a look of consternation on her face. She had only gotten a brief look and hadn’t fully seen his face, but something about the man’s build and the way he moved was familiar.

  She busied herself with getting her cage ready for business as usual. A customer came in and stepped up to Crumm’s window, just before she removed her ‘closed’ sign to indicate she was now open.

  The bank door swung open and a tall, trail dusty man stepped through and ambled up to her cage. “May I help you?” She said.

  Little Bill Noonan tipped his hat. He thought she was most attractive with curly brown hair and eyes that contrasted her light, clear complexion. “Sure can, little lady.” He said flippantly with an air of cockiness about him.

  Julie Hadley felt a certain amount of uneasiness about this new customer. But, this was all part of the business and she had dealt with this type of man before. This time there seemed to be something different. In fact the man looked a little familiar to her. She quickly dismissed the thought. Today she seemed to be seeing everyone as familiar. Perhaps she had been doing this long enough that everyone looked alike. She shrugged the feeling off. “Well then what can I do for you?”

  “I’ve got a pocket full of silver coin. I’d like to exchange it for that new-fangled paper stuff.” He flicked a little canvas pouch onto the ledge of the window, pulled the drawstring open and spilled the money out.

  “Certainly, sir.” She slid the coins out and counted them, stacking them neatly into a tray and opened her cash drawer and counted out the bills.

  Little Bill waited patiently, nonchalantly sizing up the place as her attention was diverted. Tom Noonan and Hadley had emerged from the banker’s office and as the banker escorted him to the door, Little Bill threw him a passing glance.

  “I can assure you, your money will be quite safe with us, Mr. Grogan,” Lee Hadley said, opening the door for him and extending a farewell handshake.

  “Thank you kindly, ma’am,” Little Bill said as Julie Hadley finished counting out the cash into Little Bill’s palm.

  “You’re welcome, sir,” she said with her usual business like smile and a lilt in her voice. Then as she looked up into his face and then past him, her smile faded and color drained from her cheeks as she saw the man with her husband.

  At the same instant, Tom was staring over Hadley’s narrow shoulder at her. Their eyes met and he found it hard to keep his impassiveness intact. He quickly turned and left. Hadley started to close the door behind him, but then stepped back a step, opening it wider to let Little Bill pass through. “Come again, sir,” he said with his usual oiliness.

  “You can count on it,” Little Bill said with a grin and went out.

  Tom was untying his horse when Little Bill stepped out onto the board sidewalk. Their eyes met for a moment. There was something about the nod Tom gave him that Little Bill didn’t like. His return glance indicated he understood something was wrong. He sauntered on down the street to the saloon and went inside.

  Chapter Eight

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